Timpson CEO admits business ‘shouldn’t exist anymore’

Timpson store front
// James Timpson, CEO of Timpson, admits his ‘business shouldn’t exist anymore’ as competitors have all gone bust.
// Timpson is set to open 55 new shops this year, putting high street retail at the heart of the business.

James Timpson, CEO of family retail service business Timpson, has admitted his ‘business shouldn’t exist anymore’, in a keynote interview given at the Market Research Society (MRS) Conference on 17 March.

The company, which includes Timpson, Snappy Snaps and Johnsons The Cleaners, has seen virtually all its competitors go bust.

“We’ve managed to keep going by having this desire just to survive and wanting to survive by being really good at what we do, making sure we fill the business with amazing people and letting them get on with it,” Timpson told the MRS last Thursday.

“It’s also really diversification. When I first joined the business, we did a lot of shoe repairs, we don’t do a lot of that now. We did a little bit of key cutting. We did a little bit of scratching on pet tags. And we were the biggest seller of tights and wicker baskets in the country.”

Crucially, Timpson is not afraid to try new things and now offers a wide range of services both in-store and online, from phone repairs and key cutting to personalisation and, of course, shoe repairs.

“We’ve got the confidence to do it, because we know if it goes wrong it’s ok,” he said, emphasising the importance of starting small and getting a concept right before expanding further.


READ MORE: Sir John Timpson to lead retail experts in battle against high street challenges


“Most of the mistakes that are made are mine,” he continued.

“I’m quite happy to tell everyone ‘I made a balls up of that.’ We opened up a shop recently and I thought it would be fine and it’s been crap. Hands up, I’ll sort it out. When we make a mistake, I’m happy to fail fast and if it doesn’t work don’t keep trying to put lipstick on a pig, as they say.”

When a new idea is successful – such as phone repairs – Timpson embraces it fully and rolls it out across the business as quickly as possible.

“I really like copying people, so I’m happy to be the follower not the leader on these sorts of things,” he explained.

Reflecting on the past two years, Timpson said he is already looking to the future by preparing for further diversification.

“If you were to take our core services of shoe repairs, dry cleaning and photo printing. Those are the core parts of our business, all of them in decline. What do we do? What we do is we build up the other parts of the business.”

This is likely to see more personalisation and gifting as well as additional laundry services. The Timpson chain itself is set to open 55 new shops this year, putting high street retail right at the heart of the strategy.

“All the time we’re breaking down the bits of the business to see what we can do to increase it,” Timpson said, while also highlighting the importance of recognising the “certain bits that are always doing rubbish.”

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Working in the Temple, pre-pandemic it was always a pleasure to have my shoes and boots re-soled and heeled at Timpsons, Fleet Street: friendly staff and ‘can-do’ attitude.

  2. Other retailers would do well to listen to what James has said. Learn the lessons from a business with deep roots & knowledge of our High Streets. The staff at our local Timpsons tell me they have a waiting list of people wanting to work for them. James must be saving a fortune in recruitment costs!

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